Alarm has been expressed that Church leaders are undermining the independent watchdog which monitors handling of abuse allegations.
Prominent Catholic lawyer Baroness Nuala O’Loan said
that any diminution of the role and independence of the National Board
for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church (NBSCCC) “would be very
detrimental, not just for the reputation of the Church, but far more
importantly to children and vulnerable people”.
She warned that public
confidence in the Church depends on continued support for theboard.
The former safeguarding chief executive Ian Elliott, who retired last
year, warned that “to starve the National Board of the support that it
requires, is running the risk of a lapse back to poor risk management or
“I see no justification for it other than a desire to limit the role
of the Board by covert means,” Mr Elliott said.
However, a Church
spokesman rejected this and insisted that the hierarchy is fully
committed to the board.
Mr Elliott says the watchdog’s budget has been cut year-on-year for
the-last four years. “From a staffing perspective, it has less resources
than some dioceses,” Mr Elliott said.
Baroness O’Loan stated “we really cannot
afford to allow the Church to slip back after getting it right” on child
“It did work and we saw how it worked,” she insisted.
Baroness O’Loan said she could see no reason for the cuts to the
“I would hope that it wouldn’t be that they wanted to regain
control. That will not do. If the board is no longer independent, people
can’t have faith in its work.
“The National Board has to have the capacity to do what it needs to do and it needs independence”.
She warned that independence is “the key to the success of the board
and it is the key to the protection of children in Ireland. There remain
questions about individual congregations which are unanswered because
the abuse audits [into Church handling of allegations] are not complete.
Any change to the board’s independence or cuts in funding “will
diminish the confidence Catholics have in the hierarchy,” Mrs O’Loan
However, a spokesman for the Catholic Communications Office insisted
that the Church was fully committed.
“This includes our wholehearted
support for the work of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in
the Catholic Church, the implementation of the Board’s Standards and Guidance Document at a local level, and the ongoing audit and review process of all dioceses and congregations.”
A spokesman for the National Board said
that in addition to the recently-appointed CEO Teresa Devlin, there is a
full-time training manager, two full time administraion officers and a
part-time director of professional standards based in the National
Office for Safeguarding in Maynooth.